Protein Powder is one of the most popular supplements sold in the market today. As with all supplements, the multitude of information regarding protein powders can be confusing. Protein in the diet is a necessity, but how do you know if protein powder is the right supplement for you?
Protein powders can be helpful if you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet from whole foods, or if you require a source of protein that is convenient and portable, that won’t spoil easily.
Regardless of your individual health, fitness and sporting goals, it is important that you are getting enough protein in your diet. Protein helps with weight management, enhancing muscle growth, improving immune function and supporting recovery from exercise. The benefit of protein powders compared to whole food mainly lies in convenience; it is much easier to throw a protein shake in your gym bag than a piece of cooked meat.
Whilst protein powders can be convenient, whole food sources of protein can be just as effective and will provide your body with many of the same benefits as a powder. If you are able to eat following a workout, ensure that you include a quality source of protein in that meal, such as meat, eggs or dairy. Factors such as time and location may determine your ability to eat whole foods following a workout.
Protein in supplement form can be derived from a variety of sources including rice, egg, milk, pea, hemp and soy. The majority of powders are highly processed food supplements; they need to be refined to improve taste and enable a long shelf life. It is also important to consider the price of purchasing a supplement compared with whole food sources.
Although many protein supplements are promoted for weight loss, it is important to consider the additional calories that your supplement will be providing your body. If used in place of a snack or meal, this may be effective however, if a protein shake is consumed in addition to your normal meals and snacks, you may not be achieving the calorie deficit you need to lose weight.
My answer to almost every question I get asked in nutrition is… ‘it depends’. Protein powders can be a great option for some individuals, however they are not for everyone. When deciding if protein powder is right for you consider your goals, schedule, location and budget. If in doubt, contact a Sports Dietitian to discuss whether this supplement is right for you.